Email is a great opportunity to target, reach and connect with internal and external university audiences, alumni and fans. The Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing is able to assist with your email communications planning and strategy.
Below are a few best practices to consider when creating an email.
Define your audience and communication goals
Before drafting your email, consider your audience and the purpose of your message. Defining your goals ahead of time will help you draft your message and evaluate its success.
Select the type of email
Email+: Email+, offered by Webtools, is used to design and send emails to targeted university audiences by uploading a list of recipients in Group Manager. Users can also track and analyze metrics to improve future email performance.
Massmail: Massmails can be sent to undergraduate students, graduate and professional students, faculty, academic professional staff or civil service staff. Massmail communications are sent sparingly and must be approved by the sponsored offices.
Consider email alternatives
Sometimes the information you wish to communicate might not rise to the level of sending an email. In those cases, you can decide to utilize any of the university-sponsored email communications below.
Eweek: Eweek is an announcement email newsletter sent out to faculty and staff every Sunday morning. It is ideal for short announcements that target faculty and staff. Individuals can submit via Webtools.
GradLinks: GradLINKS is a weekly e-bulletin with news and opportunities for graduate students and postdocs. It is produced by the Graduate College and distributed every Sunday. Individuals can submit via Webtools.
iNews: iNews is a general-interest newsletter emailed every Sunday to undergraduate students by Student Affairs. The newsletter has a limit for scrolling—an item should appear in only one iNews mailing per semester. Individuals can submit via Webtools.
DDDH: The DDDH listserv distributes emails only to dean, director or department head positions. The list is used to announce changes in administrative responsibility or changes to critical procedures. Announcements are reviewed and approved by the Office of the Provost.
Focus on readability
Maximizing readability helps to make sure your message comes across clearly. Be sure to include headings, bulleted lists and paragraph breaks to optimize readability. Emails should be easy to read on desktop and mobile devices.
Decide on send time
Based on your audience, decide on an optimal date and time for them to receive the information. If you are sending a Massmail, DDDH or Email+ to a large audience, you should coordinate timing with the Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing in advance.
Evaluate email performance and metrics
After your email has sent, Email+ offers the ability to run a report on your communication’s performance based on the following factors:
- Audience: Total # of emails sent
- Opens: Full opens, desktop opens, mobile opens, not opened
- Clicks: Number of people who clicked a link, clicks per person, total clicks
- Bounces and unsubscribes
The ways you utilize these metrics will depend on the goals you set for the communication. For example, if the purpose of your email was to drive traffic to a webpage, you might define success by link clicks. It is important to review your metrics to see if your communication is meeting its intended goals.
Email+ is the most common choice for sending an email, as you can select and send to your desired recipient list. DDDH messages go to a small, select group of deans, directors and department heads and is usually only utilized to announce internal changes to operations or structure. If your announcement is urgent or important and pertains to the wide entirety of campus, it might rise to the level of Massmail.
If you are using Email+, consider your audience before selecting a date and send time. If you are sending emails habitually, like newsletters, you may decide to consult your analytics and experiment with different times and dates until you find one you’re satisfied with. If you are sending a Massmail, you should coordinate with the Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing on your desired send time.
It is important to remember that send date and time are only one factor to email performance, and you should be mindful of other communications components, such as email length, the email’s subject line and readability.
Be mindful of the length of your email and work to keep your communications concise. Oftentimes, long blocks of text can be overwhelming and difficult to digest. Consider your own interactions with emails and aim to communicate the most important information.
- Webtools Email+ training
- University of Illinois Foundation (for utilizing the TED database to email alumni)
- Admissions R&Y Network (for communicating with prospective students)
If you have a suggested topic that you’d like to see added to this page, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Suggestion for the email communications module
General questions about email strategy? Contact an expert:
- Allison Vance, email@example.com, StratCom
- Katie Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org, StratCom
- For questions about communicating with prospective students:
Doug Burgett, email@example.com, Enrollment Management
- For questions about communicating with alumni:
Christy Moss, firstname.lastname@example.org, Alumni Association